Research & rationale the informs the ambition for future professional practice
The reason I chose to take the Masters course directly after my degree is that, although I had gained a skillset and confidence within the world of product design, I was still unsure on who I wanted to be as a designer. Through undergoing my Masters, I found all my authentic design is rooted within empathy, the environment and my ethics in relation to my veganism. This is who ‘Ciara Hall’ is and what I want people to expect from my work and reflect in my professional practice. Currently I am focusing on articulating this philosophy through furniture design.
Research & rationale that underpins your developing/resolved Design Methodology
My previous projects and personal struggles in transitioning to both a vegan and environmentally conscious/natural lifestyle have been, ironically, tricky. In my vegan journey, I have found there are different types of vegan identities and I have identified as an environmentally conscious vegan in my personal life and, correspondingly, my design. Vegan and environmental morality go hand-in-hand. If you want natural furniture, you must respect the natural world and not exploit or abuse the sentient beings that are just as entitled to this planet as ourselves. However, if you want ethical furniture, you must understand that the lifecycle of your products must replicate the lifecycle of nature. If it harms the planet, it will ultimately harm the inhabitants on that planet. Veganism is far more than just lentils and soy lattes; it is a lifestyle choice that should be reflected in all aspects of a person’s life, including their furniture.
What is the proposed Product Focus for the Final Major Project period?
I will be focusing on contemporary furniture that emulates my ethical and environmental values. The design will focus on how animals are exploited, abused and treated like material-producing machines for leather skin, wool, down and so on. The material and manufacture side will focus on showing the incredible material properties of plant-based materials and how they can be superior to traditional animal-based ones. As a member of many on-line vegan communities, I can see there is a great need for both vegan AND environmentally-conscious furniture that does not include man-made petroleum-based synthetics such as pleather, nylon and acrylic. I want to provide contemporary vegan furniture that does not compromise animal or environmental welfare.
What is your intended market context, product positioning, marketing strategy?
My product positioning in the market a niche range of ethical and ecological contemporary furniture. I will be focusing on businesses who require furniture (i.e. restaurants, cafes, corporates) whose company reflect similar methodologies. I would work with contractors to create an ongoing relationship or one-off contractors for vegan or environmental projects.
Have you identified/agreed a suitable external professional collaborative partner?
I am currently in contact with several cork suppliers, including the Cork Industry Federation (CIF), and have ordered a sample cork block to test on the CNC router. I visited Ferrious and spoken briefly to a member of the Ferrious team on where their market is mainly dominated, however I have sent a more comprehensive email to them about receiving more direct advice.
Does the ambition for your Final Major Project align more closely to the MA or MSc Learning outcomes?
In some ways, my project is on the cusp with the materiality and manufacture of cork as an environmentally-friendly, plant-based alternative to an animal-based material. However, the vegan message I will be emulating within my design to demonstrate why we use these alternatives is closer to an MA. My contemporary furniture is made to challenge preconceptions of animal-based projects and ‘start conversations’ therefore the philosophy surrounding the project will be more suited for an MA.
What do you intend to submit to demonstrate the development & resolution of your personal design practice, and the achievement of the agreed MA or MSc Learning Outcomes?
I intend to submit a heavily cork-based piece or series of pieces of contemporary furniture with a clear vegan message as to why we should use alternative materials instead of animal ones. I want this project to challenge preconceptions in a non-graphic, subtle and sophisticated manner. The cork pieces to be sculptural to show the great material capabilities of a plant based material in addition to using wood for the stronger, structural aspects.
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